REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill Briefing: Energy & Environment Issues | The Wednesday Word

12802814_10154557034337506_7894024781621756710_nThe 21st Annual REALTOR Day on Beacon Hill is just three weeks away! To help you prepare to attend REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill at the Massachusetts State House on Tuesday, June 21, we continue with Wednesday Word blog posts that discuss the 2015-2016 Legislative Issues.

This is the second post in the series and reviews our positions on the following issues: Mandatory Energy Scoring and Wetland Disclosure:

Oppose Mandatory Energy Scoring

S.1761 An Act relative to home energy efficiency

Status: Referred to the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities & Energy including an extension until July 1.

Why MAR Opposes S.1761: This bill seeks to require sellers or their agents to perform a Mass Save energy audit prior to listing a home for sale and disclose to any prospective buyer the information in the energy audit at the time of the listing. Additionally, the bill commissions the design and implementation of an energy scoring and labeling system. Over and above having an enormous impact on an individual’s right to freely transfer land, such requirements would negatively affect the real estate industry in the Commonwealth. Massachusetts is home to some of the oldest housing stocks in the country and mandatory energy scoring of such older homes would significantly stigmatize and potentially devalue an individual’s largest investment.

Oppose Wetland Disclosure Legislation

H.150 An Act relative to to the disclosure of wetlands on property

Status: Reported favorably by Joint Committee on Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure

Why MAR Opposes H.150: If passed, the proposed legislation would require real estate licensees to disclose to prospective buyers that a property to be sold is in its entirety or in part a wetland. Requiring brokers to investigate and report to buyers on the various wetland restrictions overlay maps, and provisions in each community would exceed the practice of brokerage as defined in Chapter 112.

As with any other condition affecting real property for sale, buyers are free to ask questions of the seller about wetlands on the property, create contingencies in purchase agreements that allow for an inspection for wetland areas, and research information through public records.  The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS believes that these methods of acquiring relevant information are far superior to legislatively mandating that brokers perform services beyond their areas of expertise and training.  For the foregoing reasons, MAR believes H.150 should not advance.

Please be sure to visit the MAR Government Affairs page and Day on the Hill Facebook event for additional information.

2016 MAR President Annie Blatz invites you to REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill, where REALTORS® will have a chance to network and learn about the key legislative issues that will affect the real estate industry and private property in 2016. Attend the REALTOR® Day on the Hill and make an impact on the legislative process.

REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill is scheduled for:
Tuesday, June 21st, 2016
10:00 to 11:00AM
Massachusetts State House, Great Hall

We look forward to seeing you there!

(Please note: This blog post was prepared by MAR Legal Staff: Michael McDonagh, General Counsel; Ashley Stolba, Associate Counsel; Justin Davidson, Legislative & Regulatory Counsel; and Christine Howe, Public Policy and Finance Coordinator)

The REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo is Underway | The Wednesday Word

Massachusetts REALTORS(R) and Government Affairs Staff meet with Congressman Joe Kennedy (D-MA) in D.C.
Massachusetts REALTORS® and Government Affairs Staff meet with Congressman Joe Kennedy (D-MA) in D.C.

The annual REALTORS® Legislative Meetings and Trade Expo is fully underway this week. REALTORS® from across the country are meeting in D.C. to attend sessions and visit their members of Congress to advocate for federal issues affecting the real estate industry and private property rights.

Over 150 REALTORS® from Massachusetts are on Capitol Hill this week. Constituent REALTORS® as well as MAR Leadership, MAR Government Affairs Staff, and REALTOR® Federal Political Coordinators (FPC) will meet with members of the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation and U.S. Senate.  This year’s federal talking points include:

  • G Fees: Prohibit guarantee fees (G-fees) from being extended for unrelated government spending.
  • HR. 3700: Open access to condominiums and make other needed housing reforms by supporting the “Housing Opportunities through Modernization Act” (HR 3700).
  • Flood Insurance: Provide private flood insurance options.
  • Housing Tax Incentives: Preserve the Mortgage Interest Deduction and Like-Kind Exchanges.

REALTOR® FPCs will meet with their Member of Congress or Senator to present these talking points as well as district data and other federal issues. Click here to read more on the issues in your Congressional District.

The annual meetings bring REALTORS® to the forefront on Capitol Hill showing the effectiveness of the REALTOR® Party and grassroots advocacy. To see the full Hill visit schedule, visit the MAR website. Click here to see a full schedule of events in D.C. and be sure to visit the Realtor Action Center site for National legislative info and updates.

(Please note: This blog post was prepared by MAR Legal Staff: Michael McDonagh, General Counsel; Ashley Stolba, Associate Counsel; Justin Davidson, Legislative & Regilatory Counsel; and Christine Howe, Public Policy and Finance Coordinator)

NAR 2016 Legislative Issues Brief: Prepare for the NAR Legislative Meetings in D.C | The Wednesday Word

US-capitolAs we approach the end of the first quarter and the state and federal legislative cycles are in full swing, now is the time to review the NAR Legislative Issues Brief and prepare for the NAR Legislative Meetings and Trade Expo to take place from May 9th-May 12th in D.C.

Annually, NAR releases Legislative Priorities that provide the basis for the Legislative Talking Points at the mid-year meetings in May. The Issues Brief outlines the Federal issues, NAR’s position, and how they affect REALTORS®, home buyers, and private property owners.

The key issues in 2016 include:

HOMEOWNERSHIP & REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT TAX POLICIES

The growing federal debt, weak economic recovery, and continued growth of tax complexity have kept tax reform near the top of the national agenda. Members of Congress from both Houses and both parties have expressed a high level of interest in reforming the tax system, and President Obama has also expressed qualified support, especially for corporate or business tax reform. This ongoing debate places a variety of tax laws, including those affecting commercial and residential real estate, under increased scrutiny.

  • State and Local Tax Deductions
  • Mortgage Interest Deduction
  • Mortgage Debt Cancellation Tax Relief
  • Capital Gains

CREDIT, LENDING AND INSURANCE POLICIES

Overly stringent lending standards have continued to limit the availability of affordable mortgage financing for credit worthy consumers. Federal policymakers are weighing a number of proposals aimed at creating healthier housing and mortgage markets. Additionally Congress must reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program to avoid the potential loss of 40,000 home sales each month according to NAR research.

  • Credit Availability
  • GSE (Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac) Restructuring, Liquidity and Lending
  • FHA Lifetime Mortgage Insurance Premiums
  • FHA Condominium Requirements & Financing
  • National Flood Insurance Reauthorization

BUSINESS OPERATIONS

Protecting the business operations of members is always a priority for NAR. There are a number of issues before Congress and the Federal Regulatory Agencies that could have a significant impact on the business operations of real estate firms.

  • Dodd-Frank Act Regulations (TRID Implementation)
  • Technology Issues (Patent Reform, Net Neutrality, Data Privacy & Security)
  • Appraiser Independence Regulations

COMMERCIAL

More than $1.2 trillion in commercial real estate loans will come due over the next few years, and many of these deals will have trouble getting financing. NAR supports consideration of legislation and regulations to protect and enhance the flow of capital to commercial real estate.

  • 1031 Like-Kind Exchanges
  • Basel III
  • Lease Accounting
  • Waters of the United States

To track the issues, follow the Federal Issues Tracker . Be sure to stay updated on the Mid Year talking points by visiting: http://www.realtor.org/midyear.nsf/ Stay tuned for more Mid Yea updates by visiting The MAR Report every Wednesday.

(Please note: This blog post was prepared by MAR Legal Staff: Michael McDonagh, General Counsel; Ashley Stolba, Associate Counsel; Justin Davidson, Legislative & Regulatory Counsel; and Christine Howe, Public Policy and Finance Coordinator)

Special Senate Committee on Housing Adopts Three Realtor® Priorities | The Wednesday Word

The Special Senate Committee on Housing has released their final report containing several recommendations for legislators moving forward, including three priorities that help Realtors® and support Private Property Rights: Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs); Multi-family Housing; and Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief. If adopted, these items would be huge wins for the Association and homeowners across the state.

Massachusetts Association of Realtors® and Greater Boston Real Estate Board Government Affairs Staff have been members of the Senate Committee on Housing, providing valuable insight to the Committee’s subcommittees and group as a whole. While this report is a step in the right direction, more work still needs to be done to ensure legislation containing these provisions is passed.

Read more below to see the impact these priorities would have on private property rights:

Accessory Dwelling Units

ADUs, also known as “in-law apartments,” provide units that can be integrated into existing single family neighborhoods to provide low-priced housing alternatives that have little to no negative impact on the character of the neighborhood.  Current state law does not require that zoning ordinances and bylaws permit accessory dwelling units in residential zoning districts, whether by right or with a special permit.

Multi-family Housing

Multifamily construction is important as a means to provide affordable housing in the Commonwealth.  Current state law allows municipalities to adopt a zoning law permitting multifamily housing construction in nonresidential zoning districts with a special permit but does not require municipalities to permit multifamily development by right. By requiring municipalities to permit multifamily development in zoning districts suitable for such development, and by establishing a minimum density for those developments, housing production is increased and allows for more affordable units to be built.

Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief

The general tax rule that applies to debt forgiven treats the amount forgiven, sometimes referred to as phantom income, as taxable income to the borrower. Proposed legislation would allow homeowners to complete loan modifications, short sales and foreclosures for which they have debt forgiven without making them liable to pay state taxes on that debt. This would mirror the federal law, the Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007, to allow taxpayers to apply for this exclusion on their state tax return.

Read the full text of the Committee’s report.

(Please note: This blog post was prepared by MAR Legal Staff: Michael McDonagh, General Counsel; Ashley Stolba, Associate Counsel; Justin Davidson, Legislative & Regulatory Counsel; and Christine Howe, Public Policy and Finance Coordinator)

MAR Testifies In Opposition to Transfer Taxes | The Wednesday Word

Annie_testifying_2-23-16It has been another busy week on Beacon Hill. On Tuesday, MAR President Annie Blatz testified before the Joint Committee on Revenue in opposition to a proposal that would create a new transfer tax on the sale of real estate in Provincetown.

President Blatz testified that the creation of any “entrance or exit fee” to homeownership is the wrong policy for Massachusetts. Such a tax would result in thousands of dollars due at closing from the buyer or taken from the seller’s proceeds. For a buyer, this would raise the cost of becoming a homeowner, and for a seller a transfer tax would result in “equity stripping” of the value of one’s home. For those sellers with little or no equity in their home, transfer taxes could force sellers into a short sale situation. Very simply, transfer taxes would increase the cost of home ownership and create an additional barrier to entry for an already expensive state.

If passed, other Massachusetts communities and interest groups facing budgetary issues and needs could seek similar authority to solve revenue problems. The imposition of this type of new sales tax on homes could have serious implications for the Massachusetts economy and set the wrong precedent for the Commonwealth’s tax policies. By testifying at the hearing in opposition to the proposal, MAR continues to fight for sound tax policy and protect new and existing homeowners.

(Please note: This blog post was prepared by MAR Legal Staff: Michael McDonagh, General Counsel; Ashley Stolba, Associate Counsel; Justin Davidson, Legislative & Regulatory Counsel; and Christine Howe, Public Policy and Finance Coordinator)

 

House Passes VA Loan Bill | The Wednesday Word

MAR is happy to report that last week, the Unites States House of Representatives passed legislation that included a provision to eliminate the cap on VA loan limits. This is especially important in Massachusetts, where the cost of housing is high.

As reported by NAR, the bill, H.R. 3016, “Veterans Employment, Education, and Healthcare Improvement Act”, sponsored by Rep. Wenstrup (R-OH), included an amendment added by Rep. Zeldin (R-NY) in Committee that would allow veterans to purchase a home in high cost areas, by eliminating the maximum loan amount on VA loans.

As stated in the accompanying report, “The Committee is confident VA’s current strict underwriting standards and low foreclosure rates will ensure that veterans still have the required good credit and income to qualify for the loan, and that this change will not result in a significant increased amount of foreclosures.”  NAR has long supported the VA home loan guaranty program, and believes that as an entitlement program, our nation’s veterans should have the freedom to purchase a home wherever they choose to live.

Click here to read the NAR Testimony on VA.

(Please note: This blog post was prepared by MAR Legal Staff: Michael McDonagh, General Counsel; Ashley Stolba, Associate Counsel; Justin Davidson, Legislative & Regulatory Counsel; and Christine Howe, Public Policy and Finance Coordinator)